For the first time since Andy Roddick retires, John Isner was not the top rated American going into this tournament.
Stevie Johnson took that honor, seeded No. 19 above Isner’s No. 20.
However, don’t tell Johnson, he’s the top guy from the USA.
“I’ve said it the last three weeks knowing it was going to happen. John is still No. 1 in my eyes. I still look up to him, both physically and in tennis,” Johnson said. “He’s our No. 1 guy in my eyes. We’re doing all we can to help him out, hopefully push everybody higher and higher. I’m not trying to beat John by any means. I want myself and I want John to push each other from 20 to 15 and 15 to 10.”
Johnson lost a second round match to the 2009 Open champion Juan Martin Del Potro, 7-6, 6-3, 6-2, who came in here unranked but has a great summer.
He was no match for Del Potro, whose big serve gave Johnson fits all night. And he said, “I didn’t play my best tennis. You know, that happens. I don’t think I played my best tennis this week while I’ve been here, but I found a way to get through day one.
“It’s tough, play your best tennis against a guy as good as Juan. He played great, served great. Had a bad 10 or 15 minutes where shots were kind of going sideways in the second when I was up a break. Kind of unfortunate timing for a bit of a dry spell on my side.”
This was Johnson’s first time on the Ashe center court, which he said was “definitely louder than most courts. But the atmosphere was great. I didn’t have a problem with it.”
It brought back memories for him watching matches as a youngster.
“Finally got a chance to play in one,” he said. “Pretty happy I was out there. Definitely not my last time, so I’ll learn from this experience and get better.”
Johnson will be back. At 26, he’s coming into his own. He’s also got a bit of an edge to himself. A foreign reporter asked him about alleged comments he made about Del Potro’s wild card to which he said, “That’s a stupid question. Not once did I say he didn’t deserve it. Everyone here, just get that clear. That was a really stupid question because, look, the guy won here. Never said it. Just kind of a bummer I played him today. That’s about it.
“But, no, he deserved the wild card. Finalist in the Olympics and had Andy on the ropes. That’s about it.”
Johnson will be playing doubles with Sam Querrey and will take time off, away from tennis and look forward to the Asian season.
“Just being on the beach doing nothing,” Johnson said. “That’s about it. When I get off the tennis court, I don’t think about tennis. I probably won’t watch this tournament much.
“Hopefully Sam and I do well in doubles. After that, I won’t watch much of this event unless John is doing well, those guys. That’s about it. When I go home, tennis will be the last on my list until I get ready for Asia.”
You deserve it Stevie.